Paulownia has a beautiful crown, which gets purple in the time of blooming. Photo: 360doc/com
The homeland of paulownia are the countries of the Far East and South-East Asia: China, Taiwan, Laos and Vietnam. In Russia this rapid-growing tree, reaching a height of 5 meters only for a period of 2 years, is found on the Caucasus and the southern coast of the Crimea. Modern environmental problems have paved the way to this “Asian alien” into the central part of the country.
Paulownia is a unique product of nature. It is a tree of miracles, having absorbed the past of many cultures. Among the main characteristics of the tree light, robust, almost impermeable wood, which, moreover, has high acoustic properties are outlined. These advantages open up a broad range of application for this tree: paulownia is used in the production of biofuels, pulp, finishing materials, furniture and parquet. Surfboards, skis and snowboards, musical instruments, cases and pallets for transportations are made out of it. People build sea vessels and boats, saunas and bathhouses, use it in auto- and aircraft construction.
Paulownia at the streets of Paris. Photo: "Environmental Investment"
Paulownia trees are phytoremediators i.e. they are able to clean and regenerate the contaminated soils and groundwater. Due to this fact, they are often planted on river and reservoir banks, into which industrial effluents drain. Extraordinary qualities of paulownia, such as unpretentiousness, rapid growth, big leaves, beautiful crown and abundant blossoming make it exceptionally suitable for urban greening and implementing the project to offset the ecological footprint of the industrial enterprises.
The biomass of this miracle tree contains about 20% of proteins, thanks to this fact it can be used as incorporation into pet food, in manufacture of the protein concentrate and premixes. Another scope of application of paulownia is the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. Skin care products, antibacterial ointments, antineoplastic creams are made from the flowers, leaves, roots and fruits of the tree.
Russian solution to city problems
The pioneer on the national market of fast-growing trees is a company called “Environmental Investment”. Today, the company owns a number of patents and know-how, among which are methods of distillation of the seedlings of paulownia from seeds and its cultivation in a biotechnology nursery.
“The history of the company goes back to 2014. It was created to implement programs to improve the ecological environment of cities”, — says the founder of “Environmental Investment” Marina Dombovskaya.
In 2015, upon the request of the Ministry of agriculture and the State Commission of the Russian Federation for Selection Achievements Test and Protection FGBU "Gossortcommissiya" a range of examinations on the culture of paulownia was carried out. The results revealed that the tree is not invasive, i.e. is safe regarding the conservation of biological diversity, and can be used for industrial purposes. In January 2016, paulownia was included into the State Register of Breeding Achievements permitted for use within the territory of the Russian Federation.
“Environmental Investment” has obtained authorization for production, usage, import and export of the rapid-growing miracle tree. “It is an important advantage over competitors, aiming at entering the Russian market”, — mentions Dombovskaya.
Fast-growing tree paulownia approaches 5 meters in height for only 2 years. Inside the "Environmental Investment's" nursery in Ostankino district in Moscow. Photo: Marina Dombrovskaya
In 2016, on the basis of the Ostankino collective farm of decorative landscape, the company set up a biotech nursery for cultivating seedlings of this fast-growing tree. Its opening was made possible thanks to financial aid from the Moscow Fund for Promotion of Venture Investments in Small Innovative Enterprises in Science and Technology.
The latest developments of Russian and foreign scientists are used in the nursery. Special adjustable greenhouse climate, fito-lightning, primer, controllable watering and fertilization system, provide qualitative planting stock for a period of time from 2-3 months and not 2-3 years like in other nurseries.
Thanks to its ability of independent regeneration from the root, paulownia is called a phoenix tree. Even after low pruning cuts, a new tree grows from a stub, while it grows even faster, as its rootage is developed enough. The stock can be cropped in any time of the year.
The cultivation technology of the rapid-growing trees was successfully presented during the sessions of the Eco producers at the Agency of Innovation of Moscow and at the international exhibition “ECOTECH– 2016”. The company was invited to the second forum by the Fund of development and support of environmental projects “Russian carbon”. As a result of the presentations, the technology of “Environmental investment” was endorsed by the Ministry of Nature as well as the Moscow Department of Nature Use and Environmental Protection. The result of these endorsements will be providing a farming land for establishing new plantations under favorable terms.
For 2016, “Environmental Investment” has grown more than 45 thousand paulownia seedlings. The main customers include Russian cities, farmers, wood-based enterprises and pulp and paper industry.
“We recommend that large companies-pollutants plant the fast-growing trees on the territory of their factories, establishing parks and squares, creating recreation areas, to plant the trees along the roads and highways for quick and effective compensation of environmental impacts”, — explains the CEO of “Environmental Investment” Svetlana Nikulenkova.
One of the biggest paulownia nurseries in Europe is situated in Cambridgeshire on the east of England. Photo: barchampro.co.uk
Thanks to the metabolic boost and large leaves that cover paulownia from the first months of its life, the fast-growing trees produce 10 times more of oxygen compared to other foliage trees. “Through the use of our miracle tree, the companies, whose activities to a different extent are connected with the negative impact on the environment, effectively reduce this impact, saving time and budget by more than 3 times compared to regular greening projects or elimination of the ecological footprint”, — summarizes Nikulenkova.
Furthermore, paulownia is able to resolve even bigger economic issues.
According to the state program on “Saving Energy and Increasing Energy Efficiency till 2020», already in 3 years, 4,5% of electric power should be produced from renewable sources in Russia. Today the RES share is not more than 1 %. For comparison, in Norway it is 67,5%, in Sweden — 50%, in Latvia — 40%. Scandinavian and European countries are still increasing the share of alternative energy, and pellets are the most common type of biofuels. It creates an opportunity for development production of fuel pellets from the wood of paulownia in Russia. Compared to the wood waste of coniferous trees, which are traditionally used for pellets production, paulownia has a higher rate of heat transfer.
Park surrounded by paulownia trees in the center of Paris. Photo: pariscotejardin.fr
“Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the tree itself grows several times faster than, for example, pine or larch. With the help of paulownia Russia will be able to have the largest share of the European pellets market”, — underlines Dombovskaya.
How to create an industry from scratch
Now the Department of plant production of the Ministry of Agriculture considers the application for registration of a plant variety called “Moscow Paulownia”. "We plan to receive it by the end of 2017", — Nikulenkova points out. The patents for the technology to distillate of the seedlings of paulownia from seeds, grow seedlings and plant of saplings in the open ground are being processed.
Support and approval of the know-how of the Ministry of Agriculture has given the green light to the implementation of the big infrastructure project by the company.
Launching of EcoCluster enables to increase the volume of production of grown-up paulownia seedlings, which can be used for creation city's "green belts" and "nature refineries". Photo: Svetlana Nikulenkova
In the nearest plans of "Environmental Investment" — creation of Ecocluster that is supposed to become a technological testing ground for the enterprises which are partnership with state institutions and research-educational centers. The aim of such association is to achieve competitiveness and stability of the innovative entities and its production, as well as the development of green economy of towns and territories.
The open field nursery to cultivate of adult trees of paulownia (5-6 meters high) will operate on Ecocluster`s platform. These trees can be used to create "green belts" around megalopolises and "natural refineries". Moreover, within the production site there will be plantations of fast-growing trees where timber will be produced for the woodworking, pulp-and-paper, furniture and construction enterprises. Within the project it is planned to set up export of vegetable raw materials and biomass to the enterprises that produce solid and liquid biofuel in Germany, Finland and Sweden. Among other things "Environmental Investment" intend to supply farms, livestock, cosmetology and pharmaceutical companies with wood raw materials and biomass of paulownia from the nursery and plantations.
With the support of The Development fund of International Biotechnology Center “Skolkovo” the start of “The Rapid Growth Researches” project is planned. There tendencies of development of the world markets and biotechnologies will be considered. The experience with the development of samples and biomaterials will also be developed.
"The project has powerful multiplicative effect and the export potential", — Nikulenkova notes.
"Our main aim is to show to enterprises the advantages of "green" approach to the solution of current problems and to the increase of efficiency of investments. Now we are looking for reliable partners to elaborate on the innovative infrastructure created, which guarantees constant capital gains", — the CEO of "Environmental Investment" sums up.
Web-site of the company: www.ei-fund.ru
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone numbers: +7 495 997 85 89; +7 985 640 84 51
Author: Alexander Titov